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Culture Abuse Make NSFW Videos and Have A Run In With Skrillex

A talk with David Kelling about friends in high places, plagiarism and being a guy with a disability in a band.

While Green Day and Rancid were definitely the reason most people turned up to their British Summer Time gig in London’s Hyde Park a couple of weeks ago, both those bands were excited by the presence of a – for now, at least – far lesser-known band on the bill. San Franciscans Culture Abuse may not have drawn the same kind of crowds as those punk titans, but Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong personally requested the five-piece for the show, having fallen in love with their full-length debut, last year’s 10-song set, Peach.

Ol’ BJ’s not the only person backing this band at the moment: Culture Abuse – made up of frontman David Kelling, guitarists Nick Bruder and John McCarthy (aka ‘June Bug’), bassist Shane Plitt, and drummer Evan Pierce – just signed to indie giant Epitaph Records, and are gonna be a pretty big deal soon enough.

“The Clash and the Ramones mixed with some Nirvana,” says David, as to what the band do, sitting down with K! to reveal more about your new favourite band. “There’s some dirt to our sound…” 

Doesn’t a day out with Culture Abuse look like a ton of NSFW fun?

How did Culture Abuse come to be?
I had been tour managing [San Francisco punks] Dead To Me. Their drummer [Ian Anderson] and I decided to start a band. We got together a hodgepodge of musicians. I’d been in hardcore bands, and Ian’s band was power-pop, so it was a case of joining it all together.

Recording your debut album was tricky wasn’t it?
We recorded our first full-length under so much pressure. We’d agreed to do a tour with The Story So Far, but our label at the time [6131 Records] said we had to have the full-length out by the time we did the tour, which gave us three months to find a drummer – we’d been through five at that point – then write, record, mix, and master it. It was fucking crazy!

What were you writing about on Peach? We wanted to step away from putting out vague feelings and emotions. Peach was made in the middle of the U.S. election, and I was freaking out about my family and friends, how I was going to pay rent, and what I was going to do. Writing about politics didn’t concern me at the time, because my life was so crazy.

It looked a bit like From First To Last might have borrowed something from Peach’s artwork…
I live with Justice [Tripp, Trapped Under Ice frontman], and he was like, ‘Have you seen this shit?’ I saw [the Make War artwork] and thought it was blatant and crazy. By the time I got up the next day, there were all these tweets about it, so I retweeted some of it thinking it was funny. Skrillex was FaceTiming my other roommate, Lee [Spielman] from Trash Talk, saying, ‘Talk to your boy! Tell him I’m cool!’

Skrillex was FaceTiming my roommate, Lee from Trash Talk, saying, ‘Talk to your boy! Tell him I’m cool!’
David Kelling

So did it get resolved amicably?
Skrillex hit us up and said, ‘It’s a crazy coincidence, but it’s also the music industry – that shit happens all the time.’ We thought, ‘It’s a coincidence, but it also happens all the time?!’ He asked us to take down the retweets and release a statement saying we’re all good. [This kind of stuff isn’t] what music is about, so we did that, but as soon as we did he deleted his tweet acknowledging us. I cannot wait until I see them!

You have cerebral palsy, how does that inform what you do?
I didn’t acknowledge it or speak up about it for a long time. It wasn’t that I was against talking about it, but I tried to live in a way I thought was normal. It’s only recently I’ve thought, ‘Yeah, it is fucked-up, and it is hard.’ I don’t know what I’m supposed to do – I don’t know of a band with a singer with a disability that’s been successful.

But you’re now someone that people in a similar position might look up to, do you take any comfort in that?I’ve been getting people that also have it hitting me  up. I have it pretty mildly compared to some other people. It’s still not easy. I can’t ride a bike; I can’t ride a skateboard; I can’t run. Music was the one thing  that I loved that I could do. It didn’t matter how fast I could run, or how far I could throw a football, because I could write a song.

Culture Abuse’s most recent video is cute. 

We heard you had an accident when you were in the UK recently…
When we were getting ready to go to our Southampton show, I took a shower and fell. It sucked because my left side is the least affected, so it’s the hand  I hold the microphone with. Because I was injured on  my left arm I had to leave the mic on the stand, which felt so foreign. It was cool, though, because I felt I was singing better. By the time we got to Hyde Park I was more confident.

Billie Joe requested you guys personally huh?
The guy who records our band works with the Green Day camp, so someone there hit him up and asked if he knew us. He said yes, and then they mentioned the festival and wanted to see if we were interested in doing it. I’d met Tim [Armstrong, Rancid singer/guitarist] in LA and we’d swapped numbers. A couple of songs into the Hyde Park show, I looked out and saw him rocking out. After the show we went to the Green Day private party, and apparently Justin Bieber was in the building. Both Billie Joe and Tim were so nice. In a situation like that I actually felt like we were supposed to be there, because we respect their music, and they respect ours. I didn’t need to feel uncomfortable with them, because they already knew who I am through my music.

Culture Abuse are on tour in the UK with Tiger’s Jaw, and play the Garage on August 20th.

Photo: Andy Ford

Words: @HickieMouse

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